Do I want a Viral Video?

Clients often ask us if we can create a “viral” video.  Typically, our answer is “Maybe, but is that what you actually want?”  Virality is a fickle beast.  We have all heard about viral videos that have generated a lot of attention for brands and campaigns, but what are they actually worth?  Or maybe more importantly, does vitality actually benefit the client? 

The value of virality seems easy to quantify because you have a tangible number.  Over 1,000,000 people watched a video, it must have done well, right?  Not necessarily.  The return on investment might actually be negligible.  The fact of the matter is that a lot of people could watch your company’s video, and that will not necessarily translate into sales, sign ups or much of anything other than a big view count.    

Let’s take a step back, and ask how does a viral video occur?  The simple answer is that it gets shared.  Simply putting a video on your YouTube page or Twitter profile will not make a video go viral.  Even if you have millions of followers, posting a video is only the first step.  Many of those millions of followers need to share that video with their individual networks in order for it to go viral.  All of a sudden your reach of millions of followers has multiplied many times over.  Virality is the act of people who otherwise would not have seen your video being exposed to your video.  But a video will only go viral if your followers actually share it.

But again, we need to examine the value of these viral viewers.  Will these viewers ever watch another video from your organization?  Will they donate money or sign up to get more updates?  Or will they only watch the video once and never engage with you again?  If there is no engagement, we would argue that this is a wasted view.  The perception that a video has a lot of views might prompt others to watch the video, but further engagement is the only real return on investment.

So do you want a viral video?  Yes, but you might actually prefer a video that generates a lot of engagement and has a longer tail.